Five Syrian nationals detained in Honduras were holding stolen Greek passports but did not show links to terrorist threats, Honduran security officials said today.
Anibal Baca, spokesman for the Honduran national investigative police, said the men admitted to being Syrian and arrived Tuesday night from Costa Rica.
The five men, who were not yet identified, were shown in press videos being escorted out of the Toncontín international airport in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. The men smiled nervously at the crush of news cameras.
"We received information from [fellow] police services that these five Syrians left Greece and passed through Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and San Jose in Costa Rica before finally reaching Tegucigalpa," Baca told Reuters on Wednesday. "They are normal Syrians."
In a subsequent interview with VICE News, Baca backtracked slightly, saying the investigation into the Syrians' arrival remains open.
"At the moment what we've determined is that they are Syrian citizens migrating, but there will be an investigation, for all the international alerts," he said.
The men reportedly told officials they hoped to reach San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, and then travel north towards the United States by land through Guatemala and treacherous cartel-controlled territory in Mexico.
The route is the same taken by tens of thousands of child and adult migrants fleeing drug cartels and violent gangs in Central America toward the United States.
"This is an investigation we've had from Athens, Greece. We knew they were headed this way," Baca said in local news reports.
The detainees were moved to another facility for further questions. Their Greek passports belonged to men ranging in age from 23 to 33, reported La Prensa.
The incident could spark concerns over possible terrorists entering the US through Central America and Mexico.
"The big issue is that the bad guys, the terrorists, would use channels that cartels and other organizations use to smuggle people, to also smuggle themselves and things that would be bad for security in the United States," said Carl Meacham, Americas specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That's a real question."
"We are on alert," Baca told reporters.